Astros kick off the 2013 season with a victory

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The Houston Astros, playing their inaugural game as a member of the American League, defeated the Texas Rangers 8-2 on Opening Day in Major League Baseball.

The Astros got on the board first in the fourth inning when Justin Maxwell tripled to left field on a fly ball that bounced high off of the wall in front of the Crawford Boxes, scoring two runs. They padded their lead to 4-0 in the fifth on RBI singles by Ronny Cedeno and Jose Altuve.

Astros starter Bud Norris shut the Rangers out for five innings, but slowed down in the sixth as his fastball velocity dipped below 90 MPH. David Murphy and Nelson Cruz both hit RBI singles with two outs, bringing the game back to 4-2 and chasing Norris in the process. Erik Bedard came in to clean up the inning.

Rick Ankiel put the game out of reach with two outs in the bottom of the sixth, pinch-hitting for right fielder Brandon Barnes. Justin Maxwell and Matt Dominguez had both reached base on walks, forcing Rangers starter Matt Harrison out of the game. Derek Lowe took the hill in relief, but Ankiel promptly served Lowe’s 3-2 slider into the seats in right field, putting the Astros up 7-2.

After Justin Maxwell’s second triple of the game in the bottom of the eighth (the first two-triple game on Opening Day since Tony Pena, Jr. with the Royals in 2007), the Astros added another run with two outs when Dominguez singled two second baseman Ian Kinsler, who had to range far to his right for a ground ball with lots of topspin.

Lefty Erik Bedard threw three and a third scoreless innings in relief, earning a save under the three-inning rule — the first save of his career. Today’s victory also marks the first victory of Bo Porter’s managerial career.

Zack Cozart thinks the way the Rays have been using Sergio Romo is bad for baseball

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The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.

In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.

The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.

Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”

It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.

It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.